Dining review: Quality, fresh dishes at Bon Appe Thai
By Stuart Melling
Special to The TribuneFirst published Feb 12 2013 11:51AM
I’m not sure how much of the interior design Bon Appe Thai owes to the former occupant of its space — Little Dave’s Deli. What I know for certain is that the previous restaurant’s infamous indoor soda delivery truck is now gone. What remains is a spacious, comfortable and relaxing restaurant space encircled by booths and centered with tables.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll be greeted by a gracious host who will also most likely function as your server, too.
If you’re like me, you’re trying to stave off the winter freeze and Thai cuisine is an excellent remedy. Pleasingly, I found Bon Appe Thai not afraid to ratchet up the heat levels — should you give your server the nod. And if you still want to turn the dial up, a selection of spicy condiments is only a query away.
It’s a shame the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license, as a cold beer to temper an over-eager dousing of Sriracha always works. In lieu of the beer, though, Thai iced tea ($2.50), richly flavored with condensed milk, has similar capsaicin soothing qualities. Warm frostbitten fingers with simple Thai tea (1.95) — think sweetened black tea, without the milk — which I drank by the bucketful.
Bon Appe Thai is now in its fourth month of operation, and punny name aside, the restaurant is similar to many across the valley. The menu commences with a slew of recognizable starters, such as an excellent crispy por pia ($5.95), four golden fried spring rolls stuffed with bean thread noodles and vegetables.
Tod man pla ($6.95), one of my favorite Thai dishes, is minced white fish with Thai seasonings and hearty quantities of fish sauce, formed into patties and deep fried. A four-patty order arrives crisp on the outside, salty and soft on the inside. Bon Appe Thai’s rendition is as good as any available locally.
The only appetizer that didn’t leave me wanting more was the curry puff ($6.95), four fluffy pastries, filled with mashed potatoes and mild curry seasoning. It was too mild and sweet to my taste, but it may be a good choice for the more culinary cautious.
I especially enjoyed Bon Appe Thai’s soups, primarily the tom yum gai ($4.95 small, $10.95 full). If anything can warm you up from the inside out, it would be this bold soup, which comes loaded with chicken and mushrooms, and is flavored with galangal, lemongrass and lime juice, a heady spicy and sour mix. Tom kha gai ($4.95 small, $10.95 full) is another deftly prepared soup, with creamy coconut milk providing the base for similar ingredients.
I’m always on the lookout for something new and unique, but the dishes I sampled from the "specials" cards placed at each table were the disappointments of my three otherwise stellar visits. Ba mee moo dang ($7.50) sounded great in theory — a heaving bowl of sliced barbeque pork, wontons, sprouts and vegetables over noodles in a broth — but it lacked any depth of flavor. A similar special, spring noodle ($8.50), featured broken pieces of crunchy spring rolls atop a mess of vermicelli noodles, but again an equally lackluster broth.
More common Thai offerings hit the spot, though, and aficionados should be largely content. The pad seiw ($9.95), a tangle of thick noodles, bathed in soy sauce and peppered with meat and broccoli was good, as was the Chinese-inflected drunken noodles ($9.95), more thick noodles coated in oyster sauce and strewn with vegetables.
Iconic dishes such as creamy and rich red and green curries ($9.95) were downright delicious, each packed full of crunchy fresh vegetables and bags of flavor. My favorite dish was the pad ga prow ($9.95), a traditional stir-fry of bell peppers, onions, garlic and Thai basil. When I ordered it with chicken, I was delighted to see the restaurant employ meaty ground chicken, which helped soak up all the salty-and-spicy sauce.
For dessert, I skipped the seasonally dubious mango dishes, and enjoyed sticky rice with ice cream ($2.95) and fried bananas over coconut ice cream ($4.95). While neither blew my socks off, the attention to detail was appreciated — each topped with a drizzle of honey and crushed nuts.
Beyond two or three hum drum dishes, Bon Appe Thai is a solid Thai restaurant, serving fresh, flavorful and affordable food. With its prime location on 3300 South, and little Thai competition in the immediate area, the restaurant has a chance of being a great success.